(The FDU Knights are Northeast Conference champions once again, winning their second title in four years. The Knights traveled to Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa., on Tuesday for the championship showdown between the regular-season co-champs and took care of business with a 85-76 triumph, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. This is story of that journey.)
By Anthony Covino
Sports Staff Writer
LORETTO, Pa., — Getting to go out to Loretto, Pa., was an experience I will never forget. The bus ride out there was a long six hours. Leaving for Pennsylvania on the fan bus at noon Tuesday, our fans cheering ‘Let’s Go Knights’ and ‘We Want Duke’ set the tone for the bus ride.
FDU head coach Greg Herenda made an appearance on WFAN with hosts Joe and Evan to talk about the game. Getting to hear coach talk about how important this game is for FDU gave the bus a rush of adrenaline to get us pumped up for the game.
I, like the rest of the fans on the bus, slept on the ride there to get energized and ready for the game. When we arrived at Saint Francis University, the crowd of people waiting to enter DeGol Arena was massive. Once I stepped foot into onto the court, chills ran through me as the whole arena was electric and so loud that my ears were popping. Getting ready to set up to take photos in front of the Saint Francis fans was interesting as the Red Flash supporters were brimming with school spirit.
With an estimated attendance of 2,610, every fan was on their feet. Before the game started, I told our fan section that we were going to rush the court if FDU wins. Every fan agreed with me that we were going to rush the court if FDU did indeed win.
The fans knew that I was from FDU and did not hold back any trash talk. I brushed it off and continued to watch the game as FDU and Saint Francis were going back and forth in the first half.
The Knights went into halftime with a 40-31 lead and the Saint Francis fans were speechless as they had no answer to the score. Going into the second half, the momentum was with FDU as we had a lead.
Our fan section, including myself, was electric all night. Every basket FDU scored, cheers from the fan section could be heard throughout the arena. The Knights remained in control during the second half, and the only thing you could hear was our fan section cheering and shouting ‘WE CAN’T HEAR YOU’ to the Saint Francis fans.
As the last seconds ticked down to 0, our fan section was getting ready to rush the court. And when the buzzer went off, the fan section and I all ran, jumped over the bench, and celebrated with the team at half court, shouting and cheering. The entire arena was silent as all you could hear was the sound of the Knights and their fans cheering.
The emotions started to kick in when the players received the championship trophy. Every player wanted to get their chance to hold and kiss the trophy.
It was time for the players and coaches to cut down the nets so each player got a piece of the net as a memory of this achievement. As every player went up to get their piece, cheers from the fans and the players families filled the arena.
Seeing the players and their families so happy and excited for their success is powerful, as becoming a conference champion in college basketball is a long and difficult journey. The Knights showed that they were the real champions of the NEC with this win and solidified their spot in this year’s NCAA tournament.
The bus ride back to Hackensack was a fun one as our fans were pumped on our way back to the bus, cheering ‘WE WANT DUKE.’ After a long trip, the whole bus eventually fell asleep, including myself after a long day of travel.
Getting to celebrate an NEC championship with the players live and in person was an experience that will forever live in me as this may or may not happen again in my time at FDU. This was a once and a lifetime trip that will I will remember for the rest of my life as to watch my school’s basketball team win the NEC championship and make it to the NCAA tournament is truly amazing. Getting to watch the game on TV is fun itself, but being there in person is a totally different feeling that I will never forget.
Anthony Covino photos